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Jun 5, 2013 1:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue School Board Trims Another $600K From Budget; Spending Plan Won't Pierce Cap

Jun 5, 2013 1:33 PM

The East Quogue Board of Education adopted a $22.41 million budget for 2013-14 on Monday night that trims close to an additional $600,000 in spending, namely by cutting two special education positions and several teacher aides and teaching assistants.

The revised spending plan was drafted after its first budget failed to garner the 60-percent approval that was required for it to pass last month because the budget exceeded the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap. The revised budget now comes in under the cap, meaning that just a simple majority on Tuesday, June 18, is required for the budget to pass.

The revised budget now increases overall spending by about one-quarter of 1 percent over this year’s $22.35 million budget. District officials said the spending plan would also increase the tax levy by about 2.45 percent—just under the state cap, after exceptions and exemptions are considered—but said they had not yet calculated the projected tax rate. Under the rejected budget, the tax rate was expected to climb 4.7 percent, from $10.37 to $10.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The rejected $23 million budget proposed a 2.9-percent overall spending increase and a tax levy increase that would have pierced the cap. It received 59 percent approval, just seven votes shy of the 60 percent it needed.

During Monday’s meeting, which drew emotional reactions from both the board and the roughly 50 parents and school employees in attendance, board members said every program at the elementary school would be maintained, though some would be modified under the revised budget.

“We don’t feel good about making cuts—it’s been a pit in my stomach since we went down that night,” School Board member Joseph Tsaveras said, adding that he, too, has children in the school.

He added that the board spent hours poring over the budget in the past week, trying to find the best way to trim an additional $593,000 to reach the cap by Monday, the deadline the state gave them for adopting the amended spending plan.

“Trying to find that amount of money in our budget forced us to make some very difficult decisions,” School Superintendent Les Black said. “It came down to a choice of saying, ‘Would I rather have this, or would I rather have that? I can’t have everything that I had before.’”

If approved by voters on June 18, the revised spending plan would eliminate a custodial position and a total of three special education teachers—one was originally cut under the rejected budget—and an unspecified number of teacher aides and assistants. Mr. Tsaveras said the cuts that were made in the rejected budget also will be cut from the revised spending plan, including a part-time librarian position. A foreign language teacher will be reduced from full-time to part-time, which sparked concerns that the Spanish language program would be eliminated, but Mr. Tsaveras said the board is examining ways to keep that program intact.

Since the proposed budget now falls under the cap, it will require only 50-percent voter approval at the polls. If the budget were to fail a second time, the board would be required to adopt a budget with a zero-percent increase in the tax levy, resulting in massive cuts and further job eliminations.

“There is no way we can risk putting the same budget up a second time,” Mr. Black said, explaining the board’s reasoning for adopting an amended budget that falls below the cap. “If it were to fail again, the consequences would be absolutely devastating.

“It would be irresponsible of all of us to try to do that,” he continued. “I wish I could say something different.”

Parents thanked board members for their hard work, while some expressed concerns about the jobs that would be cut, particularly those in special education, and how it would affect their children. Board members were reticent to say what specific jobs would be eliminated—and how many—citing a need to notify the employees before that information is announced publicly. Mr. Black said those details will be shared during a public hearing scheduled for 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, at the Central Avenue school.

Mr. Black said kindergarten would be preserved as a full-day program, and the music program would remain intact under the revised budget.

“How do you justify cutting any special ed?” asked resident Carrie Dansky, a speech pathologist in the Sachem School District who has an autistic child who now attends the Westhampton Beach High School.

The board assured her that all special education students would receive the services that they require and deserve. Board member Patty Tuzzolo, who has a special education student in the school, said it is the last place she wanted to see touched. “Know that we’re just doing the best we can with a really crumby situation,” she said.

The board also approved a proposition that will be put before voters on June 18. If approved, the district will modify its school transportation requirements so that buses only pick up children living a minimum of one mile from the school, rather than the current minimum of a half mile, saving about $57,000.

“When those kids come back here in the fall, have faith, have trust, that we will give them everything we have, more so than ever,” Principal Robert Long said. “Now it’s the time to dust ourselves off to get out to those polls in a couple of weeks and make sure this situation doesn’t get worse, because those teachers sitting out there in the audience and this Board of Education sitting up here at the front of the room have done everything humanly possible.”

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It would be nice if this article was unlocked so that residents could access this very important information.....
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jun 6, 13 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Spend the 40 bucks a year to support this paper which does a great job getting the information out there.
By rightwing (18), East Quogue on Jun 7, 13 11:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
FYI- many positions are being eliminated, not 2....more like 12
No more Library or Spanish, teachers aides and Special Education department are being slashed...
Besides teachers losing there jobs, the children will be the ones that suffer, too bad they can't vote!
By casden (5), westhampton on Jun 8, 13 9:25 AM
Oh but they can vote. Let them buy property and pay taxes. Then they can vote. What many don't realize is the system in East Quogue is now breaking the way it will break in other districts eventually. There is only so much you can spend of other people's money before they will push back. The system on LI will eventually come crashing down. The benefits including retirement packages are unaffordable. If I was a recipient of the pension I wouldn't count on it for to long as it will backrupt itself ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 10, 13 8:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
Hey Jim Crow, you don't need to be a property owner or pay taxes to vote. All you have to do is be over 18 and registered in the school district.
By user.name (46), the jungle on Jun 10, 13 10:05 PM
3 members liked this comment
Casden were you at the meeting? That's not what the Superintendent stated.
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jun 12, 13 8:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Realistic, do you want to go back to only allowing property owners to vote? Find yourself a time machine back to the 1800's or one that will bring you into this century.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 12, 13 9:03 AM
Yes I would. Others are not spending my taxes prudently.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 12, 13 12:13 PM
Yes, and last Tuesday, dire straits ahead, amazing that the administration isn't taking a pay freeze.
By casden (5), westhampton on Jun 13, 13 7:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Realistic, than you for admitting what we already knew, you are motivated by race and bigotry.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 14, 13 11:16 AM
i agree. this is ridiculous locking articles like this.
By bmr80 (35), east quogue on Jun 6, 13 6:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
The print edition came out yesterday, and it is likely IMO that this article will be unlocked at some point. There is nothing urgent in this article as far as I can see.

The Press's business model, indeed that of all print media, has been seriously challenged by the Internet, and supporting them with a subscription is helpful if one can afford it. BTW annual renewals are much less, about $10 per year I believe. Money well spent IMO.

And don't forget that the free sites like Patch ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 11:36 AM
After reading the SHP and receiving the mailing from Superintendent Black I am commenting. I did not attend the latest budget hearing wherein these cuts were discussed. It seems to me that eliminating 3 special education teachers for those students who are "at risk" in favor of keeping other programs is suspect. How do you plan to keep the same level of services for these "special children?" Why is the school not cutting in areas such as physical education, language and lastly the music program, ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jun 12, 13 8:28 AM
These cuts were spelled out clear as day BEFORE you voted no and made them happen. You voted NO on our budget because “it pierced the cap” forget the FACT that we had a LOWER proposed increase than districts that stayed under the cap. We didn’t just lose 3 Special Ed teachers we ALSO lost Foreign Language, Library, a part- time psychologist, a part-time speech therapist, several teaching assistants, several teacher aides, a custodian, and clerical staff. Thinking that one physical ...more
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Jun 14, 13 11:07 AM
BTW - "How do you plan to keep the same level of services for these "special children?" BY VOTING YES ON A FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE BUDGET!!!!! Did you not understand that cutting $ = cutting services or did you just think you would be able to pick which services were the most disposable? Music has kept a lot of "at risk" kids from becoming incarcerated kids and that's a fact!
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Jun 14, 13 11:16 AM
Thank you for your condemnation of the questions I have posed. Thank you for pinning the entire rejection of the defeated budget on me. Thank you for presuming to know how I feel about the unfortunate special needs students. And lastly, thank you for the personal attacks which you feel reinforce your self serving position.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jun 17, 13 8:02 AM
I have done nothing but answer your questions with facts. You are the one who continually attacks our school and the good people who work there. Attacks are not personal until they addressed to an individual. As a faceless/nameless blogger you can never be subject to "personal" attacks. YOU however HAVE personally attacked teachers/administration in our school, YOU have called our school a "bottomless pit" all while hiding behind your computer. Every time someone answers your negative beliefs ...more
By cmac (184), East Quogue on Jun 18, 13 8:56 AM
2 members liked this comment
To those of you who think cutting programs is that answer to our education problems, think again.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 12, 13 9:04 AM
Crusader, all faculty and staff in the East Quogue School District are equally important, even the "gym staff". Losing anyone is a huge loss for the children. The easy solution for the district would've been passing the budget the first time around. Apparently the community didn't feel that it was important to keep the quality of education of East Quogue the same and it's very unfortunate. I believe in past posts you mentioned that your kids went to school in East Quogue. Is that correct? ...more
By E.Q.uality (3), EQ on Jun 14, 13 9:21 AM
4 members liked this comment